Christian peace protestors shut down factory supplying arms for Saudi Arabia

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‘The People’s Weapons Inspectors’ have today (April 2018) blocked the gates of arms manufacturer Roxel in the West Midlands and are attempting to inspect the site. They believe the site is supplying weapons components that will be used by the Saudi Arabian military to commit war crimes against the people of Yemen.

At around 07:35 the activists from Put Down the Sword, which is part of the Faith and Resistance Network, parked outside Roxel and blocked the gates by locking their arms together inside fortified drainage pipes. Others walked through an open gate onto the site, demanding that they be allowed access to inspect. They unfurled banners reading “Site closed for weapons inspection” and “Roxel: stop arming Saudi”. Some took part in a prayer service remembering the thousands of victims of the war in Yemen.

The group allege that Roxel are manufacturing propulsion systems for Brimstone air-to-surface missiles which are to be delivered to Saudi Arabia. The protesters aim to deliver evidence of Roxel’s alleged weapons deal and of Saudi war crimes against the people of Yemen. They are calling upon the British government to stop supplying export licenses for British arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Civil war has been raging in Yemen – one of the world’s poorest countries – for over three years. As of October 2017, hospitals in Yemen reported almost 9000 casualties and over 50,000 injuries. The UN says that more than 60 per cent of civilian deaths have been the result of air strikes led by the Royal Saudi Air Force. The impacts of the conflict have been catastrophic. Yemen is experiencing the world's largest cholera outbreak. About 22 million people – 75 per cent of the population – are in need of humanitarian assistance. The UN calls the situation the world's worst man-made humanitarian disaster.

The People’s Weapons Inspectors, some from ecumenical Christian peace group, Put Down The Sword, decided that they had to act when on 12 March 2018, an order in progress for one thousand Brimstone missiles for Tornado jets appeared on the Stockholm International Peace Resaerch Institute (SIPRI) Arms Transfer Database. Now, dozens of police are attending the scene and many workers are unable to fully access the site and continue their work building missiles.

In a pre-recorded statement Nick Cooper said, “We already knew that Roxel and MBDA had manufactured Saudi orders for missiles in the run up to the war on Yemen and that the Saudi’s Tornado jets had recently been fitted to carry Brimstone missiles. When we saw what looked to be a large Brimstone order appear on the SIPRI database we knew we had to act.” 

Jo Frew, who entered the site to question the directors, said: “By licensing arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the British government is escalating the conflict. We felt compelled to act. We call upon the British government to refuse applications to licence further arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

Since the beginning of the war in Yemen in March 2015 up to the end of 2017, the UK government’s export license quarterly reports have issued ML4 licenses (bombs, missiles, countermeasures) to Saudi valued at over £1.9 billion.

According to Human Rights Watch, since Saudi Arabia pledged to reduce civilian harm in coalition attacks in 2017, there have been at least six unlawful coalition attacking, which have killed 55 civilians, including 33 children. These attacks have mainly been on family homes, far away from military targets. The UN says Saudi Arabia have carried out “no credible investigation into these attacks”.

* According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade, the Royal Saudi Air Force have recently upgraded their British manufactured Tornado fighter jets to carry Brimstone missiles in addition to their fleet of Eurofighter Typhoons. This information has been confirmed by Janes Defence and can be read here

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